medal

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medal,

a piece of metal, cast or struck, often coin-shaped. The obverse and reverse bear bas-relief and inscription. Commemorative medals are issued in memory of a notable person or event. Civil and military decorationsdecorations, civil and military,
honors bestowed by a government to reward services or achievements, particularly those implying valor. The practice of bestowing such decorations dates back at least to the laurel wreaths of the ancient Greeks and Romans and gained prevalence
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 are those medals (disk, cross, or star) conferred by state, order, or organization for signal bravery or service or for distinction in science or the arts. Religious medals, often worn by Roman Catholics, are believed to be efficacious if blessed by the Church; an indulgenceindulgence,
in the Roman Catholic Church, the pardon of temporal punishment due for sin. It is to be distinguished from absolution and the forgiveness of guilt. The church grants indulgences out of the Treasury of Merit won for the church by Christ and the saints.
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 may be attached to a blessed medal. Medals have ranked as works of art since Greek times; Roman medals are notable for their realistic portraiture. Medals returned to fashion during the Renaissance, especially through the fine work of PisanelloPisanello
, c.1395–1455?, Italian medalist, painter, and draftsman of the early Renaissance. He was also called Vittore Pisano, but his real name was Antonio Pisano. His art shows the influence of Gentile da Fabriano, whom he assisted in the ducal palace in Venice.
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. Many sculptors and painters were famous also as medalists, notably Leone Leoni, Benvenuto Cellini, and Albrecht Dürer. France in the 19th cent. became the leader in producing medals of artistic merit. Cast medals were predominant in the 15th cent., but by the 16th had been largely superseded by die-struck medals. Dies may be cut direct, or a wax or plaster model about four times the intended size of the medal may be reproduced as a metal electrotype from which a die is made in the desired size by a reducing machine operating on the principle of the pantograph. See also numismaticsnumismatics
, collection and study of coins, medals, and related objects as works of art and as sources of information. The coin and the medal preserve old forms of writing, portraits of eminent persons, and reproductions of lost works of art; they also assist in the study of
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; ribbonribbon,
relatively narrow width of woven fabric edged with selvage. Ribbons have been used for centuries as girdles, headdresses, and badges and for ornamentation. At first called ribbands, they were narrow strips of cloth which were attached to a garment to form borders.
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.

Bibliography

See J. Babelon, Great Coins and Medals (tr. 1959); A. A. Purves, Collecting Medals and Decorations (1987).

Medal

 

(1) A metallic badge with a picture on both sides (less frequently, on one side), issued in honor of an outstanding person or event. Most commonly a medal has a round or oval shape. Sometimes polygonal medals, called plaketki in Russian, are issued. The first medal was issued in Italy in the 14th century. Initially, medals were issued not only by the state but by separate individuals and societies. However, from the 17th and 18th centuries only the state, as a rule, had the right to strike medals. In the USSR, for example, medals have been issued in commemoration of the launching in the USSR of the earth’s first artificial satellite in honor of V. I. Lenin and lurii Gagarin (established at the 61st General Conference of the International Astronautical Federation). Medals have also been issued as souvenirs, such as the medals of the All-Union Agricultural Exhibit, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Moscow: the Lenin Hills, Old Moscow: the Kremlin, and Leningrad: the Hero City.

(2) A form of state award for services rendered (award medals). The first award medal was established in the 17th century in Sweden by King Gustavus Adolphus for rewarding officers. In the late 18th century award medals were introduced in Poland, France, and Prussia. In Russia the first award medal was established during the rule of Tsarevna Sofiia. Medals were initially conferred for military service and later for civil service. In the majority of modern bourgeois states there exist mainly medals for military services (for example, in the United States the Medal of Honor of the army and navy, the Soldier’s Medal, the Airman’s Medal, and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal; in France the Medaille Militaire; in Belgium the Military Medal of King Albert; and in Denmark the Medal for Service in World War II).

(3) An award for achievement in science, culture, economics, and other fields. Medals are awarded, for example, to laureates of the International Lenin Prize For Strengthening Peace Between Peoples, laureates of international competitions of performers, laureates of the Nobel Prize, and winners of international sport competitions. In certain states there are medals for distinguished service in agriculture and industry (Italy) and for service in art and literature (Austria and Belgium). The USSR has established medals for successes in the national economy (for example, the Medal of the Exhibit of Economic Achievements), in science (for example, gold medals in honor of M. V. Lomonosov, A. S. Popov, I. I. Mechnikov, V. V. Dokuchaev, A. P. Kaprinskii, S. I. Vavilov, K. E. Tsiolkovskii, and I. P. Pavlov; the K. D. Ushinskii Silver Medal, the medals of the Geographic Society of the USSR, including the Great Gold Medal and gold medals in honor of F. P. Litke, P. P. Semenov, and N. M. Przheval’skii), and in culture (for example, for the authors of works awarded literary prizes—the N. Ostrovskii and Ia. Galan medals; medals for the best works in the fine arts; and the A. S. Makarenko Medal).

B. A. ZHALEIKO

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